Arctic sea ice bottoms out near all-time low; August was Earth's 4th - 8th warmest

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:11 PM GMT on September 17, 2011

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Arctic sea ice extent hit its minimum on September 9 this year, falling to its second lowest value since satellite measurements began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center . More than one third (35%) of the Arctic sea ice was missing this summer, compared to the 1979 - 2000 average. This is an area about the size of the Mediterranean Sea. The 2011 sea ice minimum was very close to the all-time record low set in 2007; in fact, the University of Bremen rated the 2011 loss the greatest on record. For the fourth consecutive year, and fourth time in recorded history, ice-free navigation was possible in the Arctic along the coast of Canada (the Northwest Passage), and along the coast of Russia (the Northeast Passage.) Mariners have been attempting to sail these waters since 1497.

While the record low sea ice year of 2007 was marked by a very unusual 1-in-20 year combination of weather conditions that favored ice loss (including clearer skies, favorable wind patterns, and warm temperatures), 2011's weather patterns were much closer to average. The fact we pretty much tied the record for most sea ice loss this year despite this rather ordinary weather is a result of the fact that large amounts of thicker, multi-year ice has melted or been flushed out of the Arctic since 2007. As a result of the loss of this old, thick ice, both 2010 and now 2011 set new records for the lowest volume of sea ice in the Arctic, according the University of Washington PIOMAS model. Given the very thin ice now covering most of the Arctic, we can expect truly dramatic sea ice loss the next time 1-in-10 year or 1-in-20 year warmth and sunshine invades the Arctic. We are definitely on pace to see the Arctic virtually sea ice-free in summer by 2030, as predicted by several leading Arctic sea ice scientists. I expect we'll see more than half of the Arctic ice gone and the North Pole liquid instead of solid by the summer of 2020, and probably sooner.


Figure 1. Arctic sea ice extent in 2011 (blue line) compared to the record low year of 2007 (dashed green line) and average (thick grey line.) Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center .

When was the last time the Arctic was this ice-free?
We can be sure the Northwest Passage was never open for ice-free navigation--particularly ice-free navigation for multiple years in a row--between 1900 and 2000, as we have detailed ice edge records from ships (Walsh and Chapman, 2001). It is very unlikely the Passage was open between 1497 and 1900, since this spanned a cold period in the northern latitudes known as "The Little Ice Age". Ships periodically attempted the Passage and were foiled during this period, and the native Inuit people have no historical tales of the Passage being navigable at any time in the past.

The Northwest passage may have been open multiple years in a row for ice-free navigation at some period during the Medieval Warm Period, between 1000 and 1300 AD. A better candidate was the period 6,000 - 8,500 years ago, when the Earth's orbital variations brought more sunlight to the Arctic in summer than at present. Funder and Kjaer (2007) found extensive systems of wave generated beach ridges along the North Greenland coast that suggested the Arctic Ocean was ice-free in the summer for over 1,000 years during that period. Prior to that, the next likely time was during the last inter-glacial period, 120,000 years ago. Arctic temperatures then were 2 - 3°C higher than present-day temperatures, and sea levels were 4-6 meters higher.

However, it is possible that the recent summer low-ice conditions in the Arctic are unprecedented for the past 800,000 years, according to a 2011 press release by Project CLAMER, a European group dedicated to climate change and European marine ecosystem research. They found that a tiny species of plankton called Neodenticula seminae that went extinct in the North Atlantic 800,000 years ago has become a resident of the Atlantic again, having drifted from the Pacific through the Arctic Ocean thanks to dramatically reduced polar ice. The 1999 discovery represents "the first evidence of a trans-Arctic migration in modern times" related to plankton, according to the UK-based Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, whose researchers warn that "such a geographical shift could transform the biodiversity and functioning of the Arctic and North Atlantic marine ecosystems."

It is possible we'll have a better idea of historical ice-free conditions in the Arctic in the next few years. A new technique that examines organic compounds left behind in Arctic sediments by diatoms that live in sea ice give hope that a detailed record of sea ice extent extending back to the end of the Ice Age 12,000 years ago may be possible (Belt et al., 2007). The researchers are studying sediments along the Northwest Passage in hopes of being able to determine when the Passage was open during the past 12,000 years.

References
Belt, S.T., G. Masse, S.J. Rowland, M. Poulin, C. Michel, and B. LeBlanc, "A novel chemical fossil of palaeo sea ice: IP25", Organic Geochemistry, Volume 38, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 16-27.

Funder, S. and K.H. Kjaer, 2007, "A sea-ice free Arctic Ocean?", Geophys. Res. Abstr. 9 (2007), p. 07815.

Walsh, J.E and W.L.Chapman, 2001, "Twentieth-century sea ice variations from observational data", Annals of Glaciology, 33, Number 1, January 2001 , pp. 444-448.

August 2011: Earth's 4th - 8th warmest on record
August 2011 was the globe's 8th warmest August on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies rated August the 4th warmest on record. Land temperatures during August were the 2nd warmest on record, and ocean temperatures were the 12th warmest on record. Ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean's Main Development Region (MDR) for hurricanes, from the coast of Africa to the coast of Central America between 10°N and 20°N latitude, were 0.8°C above average, the 4rd warmest August on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the 6th or 3rd warmest in the 34-year record, according to Remote Sensing Systems and the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH). For more details on global extremes during August, see the details from weather historian Christopher C. Burt.


Figure 2. Departure of temperature from average for August 2011. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

Maria hits Newfoundland
Hurricane Maria hit Newfoundland, Canada yesterday afternoon near 3:30 pm local time as a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. However, the hurricane's strongest winds were over water, and the storm brought very little in the way of strong winds or heavy rain to the island. Cape Race at the southeast tip of Newfoundland saw sustained winds of 41 mph, gusting to 54 mph at 3:30 pm Friday as the center of the storm passed. Winds in the capital of St. John's peaked at 37 mph, gusting to 46 mph, at 10:30 am local time. Maria's strike makes this Newfoundland's second consecutive year with a hurricane strike, something that has never occurred since hurricane record keeping began in 1851. Last year, Hurricane Igor killed one person on Newfoundland, and damage exceeded $100 million, making Igor the most damaging tropical cyclone in Newfoundland history.


Figure 3. Satellite image of Hurricane Maria taken at 12:15 pm EDT September 16, 2011. At the time, Maria was a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. Image credit: NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab.

Invest 97L
For the first day since August 18, we don't have a named storm in the Atlantic. However, we have a new area to watch. A tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa Friday and is now 300 miles south of the Cape Verde Islands is moving west at 10 - 15 mph. The wave has developed a modest amount of heavy thunderstorm activity and spin, and has been designated Invest 97L by NHC. Wind shear as diagnosed by the SHIPS model is light, 5 - 10 knots, and is predicted to stay light to moderate through Tuesday morning. Ocean temperatures are 27.5°C, one degree above the threshold typically needed for a tropical storm to spin up. Water vapor satellite images show 97L is embedded in a moist environment.

Most of the models develop 97L into a tropical depression by Tuesday; NHC gave the disturbance a 20% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Monday in their 2 pm Tropical Weather Outlook. 97L should head west or west-northwest towards the Lesser Antilles over the next six days, and could arrive in the islands as early as Friday--though most of the models predict a later arrival. It is likely 97L will encounter the usual troubles storms this year have had with wind shear and dry air on the long trek across the Atlantic.

I'll have a new post on Monday, when I'll discuss the long-range hurricane outlook for the rest of September.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting KoritheMan:


" " if you want everyone to stfu.


lol.

1
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32278
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
" " this post if you're tired of people bashing other people because of what they are posting, and wish we would all just get along!
MEEEEEEE
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1074. nymore
Quoting Neapolitan:

Well, Dr. Masters--and the comment to which I was responding--talked about the Arctic Sea.

But in addition to what skyepony said in #1047, as has been noted any number of times, the Arctic Sea and Antarctica are, well, polar opposites: the former is an ocean surrounded by land, while the latter is land surrounded by sea. Because of that, the dynamics between the two are very different, so no direct comparisons can or should be made between them. But at any rate, heat has been building up in the deep waters around Antarctica, leading to such phenomena as the recent invasion of warmer-water crabs.

And so on...
yea all the warm water crabs that live in water temps of 34 degrees.
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" " this post if you're tired of people bashing other people because of what they are posting, and wish we would all just get along!
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32278
We should wind shear really pick up on Tuesday or so as it begins to feel the effects of the Upper trough to its west.



Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32278
Quoting Neapolitan:

Well, Dr. Masters--and the comment to which I was responding--talked about the Arctic Sea.

But in addition to what skyepony said in #1047, as has been noted any number of times, the Arctic Sea and Antarctica are, well, polar opposites: the former is an ocean surrounded by land, while the latter is land surrounded by sea. Because of that, the dynamics between the two are very different, so no direct comparisons can or should be made between them. But at any rate, heat has been building up in the deep waters around Antarctica, leading to such phenomena as the recent invasion of warmer-water crabs.

And so on...


If its "Global Warming" ... shouldn't the South Pole be melting also?
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Quoting DFWjc:


Just North of DFW is getting some nasty weather...


Where at?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32278
1066. DFWjc
Quoting Skyepony:
Golfball size hail in TX tonight.




Where is that?


Just North of DFW is getting some nasty weather...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Completely random, but still about this season's storms so...
2011 Preliminary Damages Per Storm
1- Irene >$10,100,000,000
2- Lee >$250,000,000
3- Arlene $223,400,000
4- Katia ~$157,000,000
5- Emily(lol) >$5,000,000
I'm suprised Emily cost more than One U.S. Dollar.
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Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11355
Quoting Orcasystems:


Correct me if I am wrong... the south pole ice has been expanding for approx that last 10 years?

Well, Dr. Masters--and the comment to which I was responding--talked about the Arctic Sea.

But in addition to what skyepony said in #1047, as has been noted any number of times, the Arctic Sea and Antarctica are, well, polar opposites: the former is an ocean surrounded by land, while the latter is land surrounded by sea. Because of that, the dynamics between the two are very different, so no direct comparisons can or should be made between them. But at any rate, heat has been building up in the deep waters around Antarctica, leading to such phenomena as the recent invasion of warmer-water crabs.

And so on...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Drakoen:


Descent pass indicating an elongated center or circulation with 98L.


Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32278
Quoting JLPR2:


Well it's not exactly the most organized LLC ever. Needs to mix out the multiple swirls.


Still, it has come a long way over the past 24 hours. Its low-level circulation is tightening up, and its getting better organized. I wouldn't doubt Code Red tomorrow.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32278
1059. Drakoen
Quoting JLPR2:
Messy.


Descent pass indicating an elongated center or circulation with 98L.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


I wouldn't say messy, especially for an invest at 30%.

Sloppy. really goodnight.
>
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11355
Considering the damage estimates I've seen...I believe there is a high likelihood of Tropical Storm Lee becoming the second ever tropical storm to be retired.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32278
1056. Skyepony (Mod)
HWRF wins the first model run on 99L with only 8.3nm of error. The rest are no where close.
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1055. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


I wouldn't say messy, especially for an invest at 30%.


Well it's not exactly the most organized LLC ever. Needs to mix out the multiple swirls.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8735
1054. Skyepony (Mod)
Golfball size hail in TX tonight.


Quoting BDADUDE:


Where is that?
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Quoting JLPR2:
Messy.


I wouldn't say messy, especially for an invest at 30%.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32278
1052. ryang
Quoting beell:


Same conclusion here, fwiw.

SW/W shear begins to ramp up as 98L nears 60W. In part to an upper level trough (axis indicated) backing into the central Caribbean. Between 96-120 hrs would be my guess for this system to attain some organization. The current upper level trough to its N should prohibit much development until then. Overall, the word "hostile" comes to mind. Butt who nose, may look different in 2-3 days.

09/18 18Z GFS 200mb @ 132hrs


That explains it, thanks!
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Quoting TexasHurricane:


I hope you get some rain soon. Where are you located? We got pretty good rains today and they say a 60-70% chance tomorrow. :)

Southeast of Buda, we have less than a 20 percent Monday with dry air moving behind a very weak front, no cool air behind it. Front on Wednesday will be much cooler but moisture here will be limited is what I am hearing? Today it was near 100 with 50 percent humidity, darn right miserable perfect for storm or heavy rain. There is a good storm south of me moving southeast, lots of lightning. I have to vote my area and Austin area as easily one of top 5 for Worst Summers ever. We had 85 days over 100, over 60 days in the 90s. I have 7 inches of rain and Austin 9 inches. We had the Oak Fire months ago, then the Cedar Park Fire, Leander Fire, Steiner Ranch Fire and the Bastrop Fire all around us that has really hurt this area in several ways but people and their assistance has been beyond Awesome. Without the dead or dying Trees near Bastrop that fire would not have been nearly as bad, last time i heard it was 90 percent contained. But it is Sept 18th and our heat index was above 105 today, i have never seen anything like this 2011 weather year. Been thru Hurricanes in Texas and in La, been thru some pretty good tornadoes in my life, been flooded out of 2 homes with several feet of water and have seen some hail that went thru some roofs but this heat, drought and fires has drained me in every way because I have seen animals suffer and die out there and there is nothing I can do to help them. I have been flooded out of 2 homes in my life with several feet of water in them too. I do have lots of feed and water out for the hundreds of birds around but that is about all i can do. Now I am making trips to Bastrop to help them but I am praying for any relief and I hope i never see a horrible weather year like this. Give me the Heat, Give me a drought, give me a few fires but don't give me all 3 together at the same time. I have to laugh to stop from losing my sanity. Austin airport got a trace this week, i got a trace and Camp Mabry received 2 tenths this week. Family members within 50 miles of me received about the same as I did.
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Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11355
1049. JLPR2
LLC is messy, but doesn't need much to close off and become better defined.
Vort is strengthening too.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8735
1048. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting JLPR2:
Messy.


Pulled together a lot better though. That ultra elongated where it wants to close at both ends can take a little longer..west-ho.
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1047. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting Orcasystems:


Correct me if I am wrong... the south pole ice has been expanding for approx that last 10 years?


2008-2010 it was up a tad..This year's Antarctica sea ice freeze fell a little short of average.

Global sea ice over all is down.
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1046. JLPR2
Messy.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8735
Quoting BDADUDE:
Must have been a lot of shrinkage involved in water that cold.





nop
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115243
1044. BDADUDE
deleted
Member Since: September 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 602
1043. JLPR2
Well now, models seem to be in pretty good agreement that 98L will affect the Lesser Antilles.

Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8735
Quoting indianrivguy:


great game brother Cane... WOOT!!
WOOP WOOP! Went to the game with a bunch of friends, etc etc...game was intense. Loud as hell. Great game though...proud of them.

I'm pretty sure we'd be 2-0 if we had the full team out there when we were playing Maryland.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting Neapolitan:

Do you have evidence of this cooling? Here's a temperature chart (please note that this is actually from a denier site):

Uh-oh


Correct me if I am wrong... the south pole ice has been expanding for approx that last 10 years?
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
.


great game brother Cane... WOOT!!
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Quoting pub123:
Translation = The planet is continuing to cool as it cycles through normal long-term patterns.

BTW - Only one agency that uses a separate set of algorithms, or in this case an algoreithm, was even close to the reading of the level of extent the good doctor sites. In fact, the arctic was adding areas the size of Manhattan many times a day about 10 days back.

You also have to remember many of these so-called "warmest" time periods are within the equipment's error thresholds and therefore meaningless.

Do you have evidence of this cooling? Here's a temperature graph showing otherwise (please note that this is actually from a denier site):

Uh-oh

P.S. -- Pay attention to the red 13-month running average trendline, not the order 3 polynomial trendline intended added just this month with no explanation.
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1038. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting bird72:
Alright folks, see this loop and go to 22 n, 66w, are my eyes or the ULL is developing in something tropical.

http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/tatl/loop-wv.ht ml



It's getting a little more moisture associated with it but the strong vorticity is still in the upper levels. Compare the 200mb (upper level vort here, then click on lower levels to compare. On 850mbvort (near the surface) you can see something there at the east end of Cuba, that is associated with the inverted trough east of FL & not the ULL your looking at.
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.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Complete Update

TS BUSTED FORECAST ALIBI






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1035. beell
Quoting ryang:


Westerly shear increasing at the end though...


Same conclusion here, fwiw.

SW/W shear begins to ramp up as 98L nears 60W. In part to an upper level trough (axis indicated) backing into the central Caribbean. Between 96-120 hrs would be my guess for this system to attain some organization. The current upper level trough to its N should prohibit much development until then. Overall, the word "hostile" comes to mind. Butt who nose, may look different in 2-3 days.

09/18 18Z GFS 200mb @ 132hrs
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 143 Comments: 16732
Quoting indianrivguy:


hahahaha, I was thinking that if that didn't translate to something over 85F no way I go.


Oops--never thought he was reporting a different temp. scale. Can't be C b/c 28C = 82F. I took it as 43F.
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Quoting Landfall2004:


This Florida girl does NOT go in water much below 90! BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

Too each his own!!!!! Celebrate the differences.


hahahaha, I was thinking that if that didn't translate to something over 85F no way I go.
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Quoting Neapolitan:

Yea, that Lee number is very preliminary; I've heard numbers as high as $2 or $3 billion in Pennsylvania alone.


Read that the total damages from flooding associated with Lee might be around 5.2 billion in the CONUS, most of which being in the NE. If so, Lee would almost tie Allison, and would be the 2nd most destructive TS to hit the USA. If that's the case, Lee and Irene will probably both be retired in 2012.
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Quoting Tazmanian:





it was fun water teamper was a vary nic 43 and i want swiming has well


This Florida girl does NOT go in water much below 90! BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

Too each his own!!!!! Celebrate the differences.
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Quoting Neapolitan:

Yea, that Lee number is very preliminary; I've heard numbers as high as $2 or $3 billion in Pennsylvania alone.

Could you give me a link to that?
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5690
1028. Skyepony (Mod)
LBAR Is best model so far on 98L~ Error in nm for Today's 12.6 & yesterday's 37.9 forecast.


Twin~ I don't get the scam. No one has been given any reimbursement for being sick from the dispersant & oil fumes. People are going to CO to detox, tests are finding the VOCs from the oil & dispersant pollution in their blood in high amounts. People are moving to get away from it to stay well with no compensation. Others just brought their kids to the gulf like the commercial said & ended up with them in the ICU..
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Quoting bohonkweatherman:
Most of Texas got very little rain it just is not me, a few areas did get good rain but those are few and far between, I have family all over Texas and no one received more than quarter of an inch all week.


I hope you get some rain soon. Where are you located? We got pretty good rains today and they say a 60-70% chance tomorrow. :)

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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